‘It’s gotta be the shoes?’ Players use designs to show off personality

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

“If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”

Those are the famous words of Deion Sanders, and while college basketball players certainly can’t be “paid” the words can be applied to the college game. Why? Shoes, that’s why. While signature shoes saw their start in the 1980s it took some time for college players to add their own personal style, with many of the nation’s top programs going with a more uniform look when it comes to footwear.

source: Getty ImagesIn recent years some programs have given their players more freedom to express themselves in this regard, and the results have grabbed the attention of many. One program that’s stood out in this regard is Miami, whose school colors (orange and green) tend to lend itself to more self-expression when it comes to footwear. Last year’s ACC champions displayed a wide variety of looks, catching the attention of both college basketball fans and diehard “sneakerheads.”

With the freedom to add their own personal flair, what shoes a player wears on the floor can become competitive but in a good way. Teammates can turn this into a good-natured competition of sorts, with the goal being to make sure no one’s shoe looks better than theirs.

“Definitely, especially between Shane [Larkin] and Durand [Scott],” Miami senior guard Rion Brown told NBCSports.com in a phone interview. “Of course guys like myself, Kenny [Kadji] and Erik Swoope jumped in. Every time a new shoe came out we wanted to get it before someone else got it, and we tried not to tell anybody [else] what shoe we had until the game started.”

The Hurricanes displayed some interesting footwear, and as Brown noted in the phone interview their colors (orange and green) worked well with some of the new shoes the program’s official supplier (Nike) released. Big man Julian Gamble wore the SoleFly x Jordan Spiz’ike shoe during the NCAA tournament last season, with the shoe being designed to commemorate SoleFly’s (a Miami-based sneaker boutique) two-year anniversary. As for the aforementioned Larkin, he wore volt colorways of both the LeBron X and the Spiz’ike (the special Black History Month release) during the ACC and NCAA tournaments. And among the sneakers worn by Scott last season were the Black History Month version of the Kobe 8 and the Zoom Huarache 2K4 Volt.

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In regards to which players were the most creative last season, that was a tie according to Brown.

“I would probably say that was between Kenny and Shane,” said Brown. “Shane always had the most “up to date” shoes, and Kenny always picked the weirdest ones.”

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Miami isn’t the only school with players who like to stand out via their footwear, and the companies have aided in this process. Players at Arizona, San Diego State, UNLV and many other programs have caught the attention of sneaker collectors in recent years thanks to some of their footwear choices. North Carolina even has a team-specific version of the Jordan XX8 that they’ll wear this upcoming season.

Gone are the days of the old-fashioned Chuck Taylor shoe being worn on the court, much to the chagrin of some traditionalists from a style standpoint, with technology improving as well as consumers being able to practically design their own shoe (for a higher cost, of course).

source:  That can go a variety of ways, from players creating their own designs to manufacturers designing special shoes for the programs they sponsor. One example of this would be Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour (founded by Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank). For their game against N.C. State in January the Terrapins wore a full “Maryland Pride” ensemble, complete with a pair of sneakers that featured different patterns in order to replicate the look of the Maryland state flag.

Another program that’s been one of the more creative in college basketball is Baylor, who wore those unforgettable “electricity” uniforms during their run to the Elite Eight in 2012. During the Big 12 tournament the Bears, who won the Postseason NIT, wore uniforms designed by adidas that had sleeves and their colors also led to some eye-catching footwear choices.

Is a player’s shoe choice the difference between winning and losing? Unless the player’s out on the floor playing in an uncomfortable shoe with its best feature being multiple holes in the sole the answer is obviously no. But while sneakers are clearly a billboard for the manufacturer, they also give the players an opportunity to show off some of their personality.

Some will go with the standard team issue sneakers, either because it isn’t that big of a deal to them or they play for a school that prefers that they go with a more conservative approach. And on the other end of the spectrum are the players who want to make a statement in two regards: with their play, and with their fashion sense.

As for Miami, Brown and his teammates will look to continue to wear distinct shoes despite the majority of last season’s squad moving on to the professional ranks.

“Me and Erik will definitely look to step our game up and keep it going.” said Brown, who noted that the Hurricanes’ newcomers are catching on when it comes to the footwear. “Even our three walk-ons, Justin Heller, Mike Fernandez and Steve Sorenson, have already started getting their shoes ready.”

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.